Slow Burn: Chevy Volt Fires

That DOT Secretary Ray LaHood is always yakking about transparency – at his confirmation hearing, at budget hearings, about airline fees, and business flight plans. During the U.S. House of Representative’s Toyota Unintended Acceleration hearings in February 2010, when Congressman Ed Markey asked the Secretary of Transportation:

“What do you think about the public in terms of them providing – being provided with more information regarding potential safety defects that automakers tell the department about even before an investigation is opened or a recall is announced?

LaHood replied: “Need for transparency.  The more information we can give the public, the better.”

Unless…..the defect is really bad, and the press will be on it like white on rice and it involves a major automaker, whose fortunes are tightly entwined with the government. Yes, we’re looking at you General Motors. (Or, as some would have it, Government Motors.)

The Dark Side of Lighters

William B. Clemmer, a machinist from Stephenville, Texas was only 56 years old when he died. His last words, en route to a Dallas hospital, were: “My lighter exploded.”

Clemmer died on May 6, 2008 of severe burns over more than half of his body, 26 days after his MK lighter failed to extinguish and burst into flames in his pocket. Clemmer was at work on a Thursday in April, when he lit a cigarette, and placed the MK lighter in his pocket. Seconds later, the MK lighter exploded, engulfing his torso in flames. Although he was severely burned, he managed to call his brother, Ricky, who hurried over and drove him to the nearest fire station.

A quick-thinking employee, who later reported to work that day, snapped photos of the incident scene. He found the bay door to the machine shop wide open, signs of something burned and a lighter on the floor. Instinctively understanding that something was amiss, he captured the state of the workplace: charred remains of Clemmer’s clothing, the MK lighter, a single cigarette and a pack of Carnival cigarettes.

Today, the Clemmer family, through their lawyer Craig Sico, called on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to seek a recall of MK lighters, manufactured by the Chinese firm Zhuoye Lighter Company Ltd. and sold by the millions in the U.S. The Clemmers also asked the CPSC to bring the U.S. in line with other industrialized nations and implement a mandatory lighter safety standard, similar to the voluntary industry standard, which is already required in Canada and the European Union.

In 2006, the CPSC considered, but failed to take action on a request by the U.S. lighter industry trade group to make mandatory the voluntary standard American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) F400, first adopted in 1975.

Not So “Smart Key” Standard

Reprinted from The Safety Record, Volume 8, Issue 3, November 2011
 
Last month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Office of Defects Investigation opened a Preliminary Investigation into BMW 7-Series vehicles that roll away because the electronic ignition fails to shift the vehicle into Park when the driver leaves with the key fob. The agency had fielded two consumer complaints, and an unspecified number of Early Warning Reports on rollaway incidents before shipping off a Manufacturer’s Request for Information to BMW on Sept. 29.

Young Riders Not Big or Heavy Enough to Ride ATVS

The disproportionate percentage of injuries and deaths suffered by young riders on adult All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) illustrates the risks of this mismatch, but a group of Illinois emergency medicine doctors and medical researchers have conducted a study pinpointing one of the causes: young riders don’t have the physique to control adult-sized ATVs.

Researchers from the University of Illinois, College of Medicine, Saint Francis Medical Center, Bradley University; and the Neurological Institute sought to measure how the physical characteristics of riders, including height, weight and fingertip-to-fingertip length (wingspan), influenced their ability to safely control the ATV and avoid ejection. The researchers instrumented two ATVs, a Polaris Trailblazer 250 (a sport model), and a Honda FourTrax 250 (a utility model), to measure a rider’s body position in three maneuvers associated with crashes: the J-hook, the brake test, and the bump. Researchers were studying the lateral, longitudinal, and vertical dynamics in five riders of varying heights, weights, and wingspans, who had average experiences driving passenger vehicles, but no experience riding ATVs.

The study, published in the November issue of Neurosurg Focus, concluded:

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